B.C. hospitals can put COVID-positive and negative patients in same rooms: top doctor

Patients who don’t have COVID-19 could end up in the same B.C. hospital rooms as patients who do have the virus.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry confirmed Friday that anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 while admitted to a hospital for other reasons is permitted to be treated in rooms with those who tested negative for the virus.

That would only happen “with additional (COVID-19) precautions in place, as we would for people admitted with other respiratory illnesses,” she said.

Sarah Adams’ husband has been hospitalized at Vancouver General Hospital for three months, slowly recovering from a serious illness not related to COVID-19.

“This shocks me,” she told CTV News. “Why would you put someone who you know has COVID into a room with someone who you know doesn’t?”

Health officials acknowledged it’s not an ideal scenario, but one hospitals across the province may need to consider. With the record number of COVID-related hospitalizations, some acute care facilities might not have enough space to continue keeping test-positive patients separated from others.

“That is an infection prevention and control team decision, made at a hospital-by-hospital, room-by-room basis, depending on the needs in that facility,” said Henry.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said it comes down to managing hospital space as best as possible.

“The challenge of having more people in hospital is the challenge of cohorting everybody becoming much more difficult,” he said. “That’s why we have on site infection control teams taking charge of the situation.”

Fraser Health did not provide CTV News with details on how hospitals in that health authority will approach the mixing of patients with and without COVID-19. Vancouver Coastal Health did not respond to a request for more information.

Adams fears the progress her husband has made during his months-long recovery could be upended if he catches COVID-19. While she trusts the health-care system in general, she thinks the province is making a mistake with this policy.

“I feel like I’m leaving my loved one to be in a room with someone who could get him potentially even sicker than he is now.”

If someone with COVID-19 is moved into a room with people who don’t have the virus, Adams says hospital staff should be required to share that information with the other patients and their families.